Maintaining good oral health is important for everyone. For people with HD, it is especially important to be proactive in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. While people with HD are not more susceptible to decay and gum disease, the progression of HD may make dental treatment more challenging. Planning for these challenges, which include transportation problems, financial challenges due to loss of employment or dental insurance, and physical changes due to disease progression, can help to insure that good oral health is maintained.
Planning with your dentist can ensure that developing problems are addressed quickly and before they become real problems.
Q) My father has Huntington's disease. What strategies might we take to promote good dental care?
A) The most important dental issue to address is getting his teeth and gums healthy, and ready for the long term decline in his ability to care for them. This includes emphasis on prevention, with the help of an electric toothbrush, prescription mouthwash, fluoride gel and regular checkups. If swishing is not possible, then there are other oral care items that can be suggested, including a toothbrush capable of suction. If he has a denture, then a suction cupped nail brush can help him use his more stable hand to clean the denture also. Your dentist can develop a treatment plan specifically designed for your father.
Q) What is a Special Care Dentist?
Without going into historical detail, this is a relatively new field in Dentistry. It is General Dentistry with additional training on how to provide it to people who have active or complex medical issues going on at the same time. For example, someone with Huntington's disease may have dry mouth due to some medications. There are some ways to deal with dry mouth to prevent the challenges it presents. A special care dentist typically collects all the medical information and puts a comprehensive plan together for your dental health that gives the medical conditions their rightful place in your care, including coordinating with your healthcare providers.
Links to useful documents and presentations:
Presentation at the HD Reach support group meeting by Mary H Makhlouf DMD MS PA - May 18, 2017
Huntington’s Disease Association - 0151 331 5444 - www.hda.org.uk
*Information on oral health care for HD patients provided by Mary H Makhlouf DMD MS PA (www.Docmary.com)